BOONE, N.C. — Equality North Carolina (ENC) has called on the legislature to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s already existing hate crime law after a bias-motivated attach on two women in Boone, Erin Johnston and Sarabeth Nordstrom (pictured), a junior at Appalachian State University, on Feb. 11.

The two were at a fast food restaurant when they were verbally harassed with anti-gay slurs by one male and two females, apparently based on a perception of their sexual orientation, ENC reported. Two of the three followed the women home when the male committed physical assault. Nordstrom was hit in the face repeatedly. Johnston was knocked to the ground, kicked and stomped when she tried to call authorities. Nordstrom experienced eye, nasal and cheekbone breakages. Johnston suffered rib fractures, a torn meniscus and bleeding to her jaw and torn nose cartilage.

The perpetrators were unknown to the victims prior to the event. Arrested were Ketoine Jamahl Mitchell, who turned himself in to police. A second arrest was made in early March. Brooklyn Lacrossa Canter was charged with aiding and abetting. A court date appearance of April 17 was set for Canter and Mitchell.

The Safer Communities Act, which ENC is lobbying the legislature to pass, would expand current legislation to include hate crimes based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

On March 2, a forum was held at Appalachian State University that addressed the community’s concerns. Three days later on March 5, a “Stop the Hate, Show the Love” benefit was held for the two women at the university.

There is now a petition online on behalf of the women to expand hate crime protections. Visit to learn more. And, visit to sign the petition.

Also, a fund to help defray medical costs has been set up. To contribute, visit

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.